Iran sponsors and foments anti-Semitism, but its people embrace Israel

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Originally published by Newsweek

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The Iranian regime’s ayatollahs constitute the world’s leading state sponsor of anti-Semitism, but Iranians reject their government’s hateful ideology.

The delegation we will lead today, organized by the Iranian-American Institute for Voices of Liberty (iVOL), is living proof that peace some day is possible among the United States, Iran and Israel. It will be the first time that non-Jewish Iranian expatriates and former political prisoners, side-by-side with American friends, visit the Jewish state. This solidarity mission is to the same Israel that the Iranian regime seeks to wipe off the face of the earth with a nine-point plan tweeted by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Khamenei aims to finish Hitler’s work of annihilating the Jews and denies the Holocaust as a matter of formal state policy.

The Iranian regime’s history of what one of us has termed an “obsessive anti-Semitism” is long, starting with the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

In May of that year, Iran executed Habib Elghanian, the 20-year chairman of the country’s Jewish community. Following a 20-minute show trial, Elghanian was convicted of being a “Zionist spy” and a “corrupter on Earth.” Elghanian’s death by firing squad led to a mass exodus of Jews from Iran—a Jewish community that traced back its ancestry for at least 2,500 years, since ancient Persia.

During the shah’s rule prior to 1979, there were approximately 100,000 Jews living in Iran. Today, there are estimated to be under 15,000 Jews that make up this ancient Jewish community. All other Jews have left—including one of us, who fled the escalating anti-Semitism of the Islamic Revolution. The few who remain live under draconian restrictions imposed on non-Muslim religious minorities. And at least 13 Jews have been executed by the Iranian regime since the Islamic Revolution.

In Iran, Jews cannot serve as judges or in high-level government positions. They also face workplace and cultural discrimination. Whereas the death penalty is given to Jews who murder Muslims, money is given to Muslims who murder Jews.

The Iranian government formally published the infamous, anti-Semitic 1903 czarist Russia hoax, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, in both 1994 and 1999. And in February 2018, Vatan-e-Emrooz, a far-right Iranian newspaper that is close to the country’s security establishment and often publishes baseless claims, published a report alleging that three environmentalists who were arrested by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps the previous month were “Jewish spies” influencing the government.

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Victoria Coates and Ellie Cohanim

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